With some much-needed reinforcement, the UCSB men’s basketball team will try its luck tonight when the University of Idaho pays its last visit to the Thunderdome as a member of the Big West.
Freshman forward Chris Moore and sophomore forward David Kennedy are back in the lineup as of last week, and UCSB will also welcome junior Derek Wheeler back to its roster. Wheeler, who took a one-year hiatus from the team after playing a total of 25 minutes in 16 games during the 2002-03 season when Santa Barbara won the Big West, has been practicing with the Gauchos ever since a rash of injuries hit the team.
“Derek has been practicing with us for the past six or seven weeks because our numbers were down … We petitioned the NCAA to try and create eligibility, and the petition came through – Derek’s been activated,” Head Coach Bob Williams said.
Wheeler, at 6’8″, should give the Gauchos some depth inside to support junior Cameron Goettsche, foul-prone sophomore Glenn Turner, Moore and Kennedy.
“He’s very competitive, has great energy, he’s pretty long and real physical,” Williams said. “He’ll see playing time.”
With the active roster back up to 10, the Gauchos appear to be better suited to face Idaho now than when they journeyed to Moscow, Idaho, on Jan. 8 with just seven players – only one over 6’6″ healthy. Regardless, UCSB will have its hand full trying to stifle the leading scorer in the Big West, 6’6″ forward Dandrick Jones and 6’6″ senior Anton Lyons.
“We just have to do a better job of being physical with [Lyons] and not letting him get into the position he wants to be,” Williams said. “We will double him if he gets anywhere near the block, we can’t play him straight up, he just fades away shoots over you.”
The last time the two teams met, UCSB kept the game close for 35 minutes but withered at the end. Lyons scorched the Gauchos for 21 points in the Idaho win.
“I’m not sure this game is going to be a lot different. I think we’ll see a ton of zone [defense],” Idaho Head Coach Leonard Perry said. “I think they’ll sit in it from beginning to end. I think it’s going to be a grind game.”
For Williams and Santa Barbara, currently sitting at fifth place in the conference, tonight’s match up and Saturday’s games are must-win situations.
“Well we have to give a better physical effort than what we’ve been giving, and we have to be able to keep people off the offensive boards,” Williams said. “We’ve just killed ourselves with allowing offensive rebounding, and our lack of depth inside, lack of competitiveness and lack of rebounding the ball has really hurt us.”
Tonight’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.